SEA SUNDAY is the day every year when Catholics celebrate and pray for all those who live and work at sea. It is a special day for Stella Maris (formerly called Apostleship of the Sea), the official maritime welfare agency of the Catholic Church.
As a global maritime charity, Stella Maris has been supporting seafarers and fishers during the pandemic, offering spiritual and practical help to those in need.
Stella Maris is described as ‘the largest ship-visiting network in the world’, but pandemic precautions have led to the charity adopting different approaches to its work. To comply with social distancing requirements, Stella Maris chaplains in the UK have delivered welfare packages to gangways or via rope links. These packages contain essential items such as clothing, toiletries and foodstuffs.
Stella Maris has also helped seafarers to stay in touch with their families, through the provision of internet access in ports, using Wi-Fi Units. Where this is not possible, the charity provides top-up cards for mobile phones. When Stella Maris in Tees port provided top-up cards to the crew of a tanker who were not allowed to go ashore at any of the ports at which they were calling, Captain Flover Santos, the Master of the ship, expressed his thanks, saying:. “You help us to connect with our families. You guys are truly friends, and an instrument of God”.
Chaplains and volunteers can also help in a variety of situations, from supporting crews who have been abandoned, helping seafarers to get overdue wages paid, or visiting them if they are admitted to hospital.
A survey by Stella Maris found that 69 per cent of seafarers have suffered significant financial impact during the pandemic. Almost half said they support three or more people with their income, and their main concern was feeding their families. Financial worries and the stress that thousands of seafarers face from having had to spend more than a year on board due to extended contracts, has had a negative effect on their mental, emotional, and psychological wellbeing.
Speaking to Independent Catholic News, Adrian Gannon, Director of Development at Stella Maris, appealed to Catholics throughout the United Kingdom to support Sea Sunday. He said: “On Sea Sunday this year, we will thank God for the seafarers and fishers who have kept food and medical supplies moving during the pandemic and for the sacrifices they have made over the last year to supply our provisions. We will pray to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, to protect them in harsh conditions at sea and from coronavirus.
“We respectfully appeal to readers to support our ministry with fishers and seafarers at this critical time by praying for them on Sea Sunday, or by donating through our website. We will be especially grateful for any support you can kindly provide.”
* More information on Sea Sunday here.